Natadola Bay rates as one of Fiji’s most testing golf courses.
Natadola Bay rates as one of Fiji’s most testing golf courses. Photo Contributed

Golfing Natadola Bay: Taming a tiger in Fiji

"WHERE are you playing?" the golf shop assistant cheerily inquired as my husband plonked two dozen new balls on the counter.

"Natadola," he replied.

The shop assistant laughed. "You're going to need more balls."

Natadola Bay - Fiji's international golf course - has a reputation as being tough and unpredictable.

Even the professionals can feel a little intimidated by the par 72 championship-standard course when strong winds are blowing and the cut after two days' play is 10 over par.

Not everyone can get a lucky break like Matt Kuchar did on the par-4 16th hole at last year's Fiji International when a howling 64kmh wind "magically" rolled his ball into the hole for bogey (check it out on YouTube).

And who could blame anyone for losing their concentration when 15 of the 18 holes have a backdrop of breathtaking views across coral reefs and rolling surf breaks?

Standing at any of the elevated tee shots reminds you that this is golfing heaven, Fiji-style.

But slice or hook your tee or fairway shots on any hole and you're liable to end up "in the drink", in the jungle growth or the rough of the coastal heathland.

Then it's "bye-bye, ball".

Photo Ian Lowrie

Not that there's any shortage of Fijian locals willing to sell you "near-new" balls (about six for $FJD10) if you find you've come unprepared for catastrophe and lack enough in your golf bag.

Such was the case at last year's third annual Sigatoka District Hospital Charity Golf Day.

Peter Hopgood - Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort general manager and Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association's Coral Coast Chapter chairman - has organised the annual golf day for the past three years to raise funds for the hospital that services 80,000 residents and tourists from surrounding areas.

Anyone can pay the $FJD1000 fee and submit a team to play the fun day at the end of November each year.

The 2015 sponsorships, team fees and raffles on the day raised about $FJD70,000 for a helipad at the hospital.

Previous golfing efforts have helped provide much-needed medical equipment and build a maternity wing.

More than 90 golfers - 23 teams of four - took up the challenge last year in the two-ball ambrose event that started out in less than ideal conditions with a few showers and high winds.

(In the ambrose format, you and your partner both tee off, then pick the ball with the best lie and both hit from that position - repeating until one of the balls goes in the hole.)

Many of the amateur golfers were corporate executives who had flown in from around the world to join Fijian company executives and resort managers.

The 11th hole was particularly taxing, since all players were hitting straight into the wind from the tee shot.

Balls went everywhere.

But with corporate tents around the course on the day serving up plenty of free drinks, gourmet sustenance and even massages while players wait to tee off, you'll have plenty of incentive to keep going and return again and again.

Just remember to stock up on those golf balls for next time.

Playing A Round

Natadola Bay is a 45-minute drive from Nadi International Airport on the Coral Coast.

It was officially opened for play in June, 2009, with the staging of the Fijian Open, won by then rookie professional Matt Griffin.

The Fiji International is a co-sanctioned PGA Tour of Australasia and OneAsia tournament that was first played in 2014.

The course features up to five tee positions on each hole, providing an enjoyable challenge to players of all skill levels.

For more on Natadola Bay International Golf Course, visit http://www.natadolabay.com.

For details about next year's Sigatoka Hospital Charity Golf Day, email Peter Hopgood at gm@outriggerfiji.com.fj.


Stability and security could draw migrants to outback

Stability and security could draw migrants to outback

But we will need government incentives for scheme to work.

Cities honours club legends

Cities honours club legends

Cities new oval unveiled.

Fighting against crime

Fighting against crime

Dick Schubert helps young men get on their feet.

Local Partners